Before we bid the Alamo goodbye for another year (in which there was virtually no mention of the event in the media, despite the obvious parallels with Ukraine’s plight), I have a few ethics observations on the 1960 John Wayne film, some of which I may have offered before:
- The version on Amazon Prime is unfair to the movie, cutting out almost half an hour from the version that was originally released. The film was an epic and produced to be one, complete with an overture and an intermission. These should be restored. Some of the cuts aren’t missed, like the irrelevant and sentimental birthday party for Capt. Dickinson’s daughter (played by Wayne’s own daughter) along with the sappy song Ken Curtis sings to her. Still, it’s an important movie, and deserves more respect. The parson’s death scene is a particularly cruel cut.
- The film is perhaps the perfect embodiment of the lesson of another Wayne film, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”: “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” In virtually every instance where the screenplay had to choose between the actual events and the myths as the Alamo tale has been told through the years, it was the myth that won out. There is a justification for that. The Alamo is a symbol of bravery, sacrifice, continuing to fight against hopeless odds, and the American spirit. That’s what John Wayne wanted to make a film about, not history. As one Texas historian said in a documentary, “The movie is wrong about almost everything, but it feels right.” In this it resembles the current debate over how to teach American history to children.
- Wayne’s carelessness (or inexperience) as a director occasionally hurts the film, like when Chill Wills accompanies himself on the guitar and it’s obvious that he isn’t even trying to look like he’s playing it. I’m not a stickler for accents, but it also annoys me that Laurence Harvey uses a Southern drawl in his first scene, and speaks like the very British actor he was for the rest of the movie. On the other hand, Wayne’s direction of the final night before the slaughter is excellent and moving.
- The movie went to great lengths to avoid denigrating Mexicans. There is an exchange where they Alamo defenders express their admiration for their enemies’ courage, and Wayne shows weeping Mexican women tending to the fallen troops.
- The screenplay includes an Al Sharpton-style ploy by Davy Crockett. To convince his Tennesseans to join the Alamo cause, he creates a fake letter from Santa Anna, to Crockett, warning him and his men not to involve themselves in the fight, and threatening their lives if they do. As Crockett assumed, his men take offense and resolve to join the fight simply to defy the Mexican general. Davy admits that he wrote the letter, and is amazed that this doesn’t change their reaction at all. After all, they insist, Santa Anna would have made such a threat, so the letter might as well be true! Shades of Tawana Brawley…
1. I won’t dignify James O’Keefe’s unethical journalism methods with a full post, but this bears mentioning. Another Project Veritas surreptitious taping caught New York Times National Security Correspondent Matthew Rosenberg, contradicting his own January 6 reporting, saying, among other things.
“There were a ton of FBI informants amongst the people who attacked the Capitol….It was like, me and two other colleagues who were there outside and we were just having fun!…I know I’m supposed to be traumatized, but like, all these colleagues who were in the [Capitol] building and are like ‘Oh my God it was so scary!’ I’m like, ‘fuck off! I’m like come on, it’s not the kind place I can tell someone to man up but I kind of want to be like, ‘dude come on, you were not in any danger….These fucking little dweebs who keep going on about their trauma. Shut the fuck up. They’re fucking bitches….They were making too big a deal. They were making this an organized thing that it wasn’t.”
I’m horrified that a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter uses “like” so often.
2. You should read this. Legendary feminist Naomi Wolf comes out metaphorical guns blazing regarding the curtailment of personal liberties in reaction to the pandemic. In particular, she praises those who have had the courage to challenge authority and the “experts,” and derides those who went along to get along. An excerpt:
I am done with tolerating this quietly.
For a year and a half now, after it became clear that this crisis was never about “the virus” but rather about a global bid to kill off our free world and suppress all of our freedoms — since I and many others have been publicly vocal about this danger and doing all we can to alert our community — that is to say, humanity — I’ve been getting direct messages (“DMs”). And they are all kind of similar….In the DMs, people whom I know socially or professionally — people from journalism, from politics, from medicine, from science (most of them upper-middle- class ‘men in suits’) — say something like: “Naomi, I really respect your actions right now. I totally agree with what you are saying. But of course I can’t say anything publicly because [fill in the nonsensical, craven reason].” The nonsensical and craven reason that follows this shameful message is typically something along the lines of, “My boss will get mad at me” or “My professional peers will have a problem with my speaking up”…
I am exasperated by those who stay in the shadows, agreeing with the risktaking of others, who talk about their “courage.” I feel that this is a form of othering that dehumanizes and exploits those speaking out.
It casts the people who do take risks for the wellbeing of others, as being somehow naturally better-fitted for this difficult job than is the speaker. It’s a form of offloading one’s own responsibility guiltlessly onto a subgroup which is assigned the status of somehow liking the battle, or somehow fitted better for combat, by nature, than is the speaker himself.
Her lament applies to weenies in other controversies as well, like Black Lives Matter’s extortion efforts, “antiracism,” diversity and inclusion, illegal immigration and climate change, even the Trump Presidency.
3. In a related vein, how do we fight the pervasive woke-washing of our brains and those of our children? My wife and I decided to try out the new Netflix series starring Toni Collette, and I offered an informal wager that the first couple we saw would be inter-racial. And it was. In a single production, such manipulation of reality is meaningless: the role of the protagonist’s ex-husband had nothing to do with race, and the actor was fine. However, combined with all the commercials and movie “non-traditional casting,” I can feel my brain being scrubbed, and I resent it.
My Bing screensaver yesterday carried a message, “Do you want to know how you can participate in the effort to promote diversity and inclusion? Click here!” Oh, bite me, Bing. I asked you for pretty pictures, not propaganda.
On my legal ethics listserv, one of the members is bombarding the listserv with The “ABA 21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge,” which includes daily reading material like Megan Ming Francis, Let’s get to the root of racial injustice, TEDTalks, March 21, 2016. (19 mins). [Submitted by D&I Advisory Council 21-Day Challenge Committee] and Juan Thomas, Reimagining Policing, Human Rights Magazine (Jan. 12, 2021). [Submitted by Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice]. What does any of this have to do with the listserv topic of legal ethics? Oh, nothing whatsoever. But the moderator wouldn’t dare point that out.